Brother's Keeper

Phoenix boxing great Michael Carbajal says his big brother and manager, Danny, stole every penny he had

Michael Carbajal faced a crowd of about 3,000 on a chilly afternoon in the village of Canastota, New York. It was June 2006, and Arizona's best-ever pugilist was about to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Never much of a talker, Michael spent most of his short speech paying tribute to his oldest brother, Danny — his manager in and out of the ring and his mentor for as long as he could remember.

"Danny showed me everything I know," Michael said, as reported by Arizona Republic boxing writer Norm Frauenheim. "He'd be there every morning at 5 a.m. He didn't run with me. He was on a bike or in the Jeep. But he was there."

Michael Carbajal on the shoulders of his brothers Danny (left) and Angel (right)
Stephen Dunn/Getty images
Michael Carbajal on the shoulders of his brothers Danny (left) and Angel (right)
Boxing champion Michael Carbajal in 2006.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Boxing champion Michael Carbajal in 2006.

He then spoke directly to his brother, who was seated in the audience wearing the dark glasses he often favors in public.

"You know what, Danny?" Michael said, his voice rising. "Now we're here, at the Hall of Fame! We made it!"


That tender scene seems so far away now.

So do the signposts of Michael's illustrious career, which ended in 1999 after more than a decade in the international spotlight. During that time, the brave little warrior from a downtown Phoenix barrio battled his way into the hearts of millions of fans by dint of his hardscrabble upbringing, a lion's determination, and a proud, but uniquely humble, nature.

The landmarks included the 1988 Olympic silver medal (he really was robbed of the gold), the first world title win in July 1990 over a tough Thai before an adoring throng at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the epic 1993 knockout in Las Vegas over archrival Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez, and, finally, the dignified manner in which he retired in July 1999, after knocking out a younger and stronger Mexican fighter in a Tijuana bullring.

These are among the most difficult days of 41-year-old Michael Carbajal's life, about as rough on him as when his beloved dad, Manny, died in 1993, or when his little brother Angel was murdered outside a Phoenix bar in 2000.

Michael has been staggered by a blow more punishing than any punch he took in 53 professional fights. It was delivered by the most unlikely person he could have imagined — his brother Danny.

Michael, who earned more than $7 million in the ring, says he is broke.

And he has become convinced that Danny, whom he once trusted more than anyone else in the world, except maybe his mother, has robbed him blind.

On October 26, Michael filed a blockbuster lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court alleging just that.

"It's just mind-boggling what has happened here," says Alan Susman, Michael's attorney. "Michael has lost just about everything. He has no money that we know of."

The whole thing seems like an episode of The Sopranos, short of the moral code about stealing from your own family.

Michael filed his suit against Danny Carbajal and Danny's daughters, Josephine and Celia Carbajal.

The suit says the trio "engaged in an intentional and malicious course of conduct to convert Michael Carbajal's assets for their own benefit. All of [their] actions were done without Michael's knowledge or consent."

The suit also alleges that "Danny Carbajal committed forgery by removing money from bank accounts at BankOne/Chase Bank, withdrawing funds from Michael's IRAs and purchasing property with Michael's money and by titling the property in [Danny's] name."

Though Michael hasn't alleged a specific dollar amount that Danny allegedly has stolen, the pleadings suggest it is in the millions of dollars.

Michael Carbajal declined to speak with New Times for this article, saying he wants to wait until Danny's November 30 sentencing on felony theft and fraud convictions. The victim in that case was Danny's late ex-wife, Sally.

When Michael does step inside the courtroom to address the judge at Danny's sentencing, those closest to him say it will be as stressful and painful as anything he's ever done.

Much of the money Danny stole from Sally came from fraudulent transfers into his name of community properties he'd jointly "owned" with her. The properties are a focus of Michael's lawsuit against his brother and nieces, and he is asking the court to order the eight parcels signed over to him, as the real and rightful owner.

Danny admitted in a November 2004 deposition, during his divorce from Sally, that those properties and financial accounts actually had been funded with Michael's money, and so he shouldn't have to owe her half of the assets.

"It was Michael's money that bought the properties?" Sally's divorce lawyer asked Danny at the time.

"Yes," Danny replied, adding that the only property he and Sally had purchased with their own money (years earlier) was their previous residence at 914 East Fillmore.

Among many allegations, Michael claims in his lawsuit that he never signed a $30,000 check to Henry Florence, one of Danny's attorneys in the pending criminal case.

Dated September 22, 2005, the check (which is attached to the lawsuit as an exhibit), listed both Michael and Danny's names in the upper-left corner, along with Danny's home address. It was signed by "M. Carbajal," and its writer noted on the memo line that a $20,000 balance remained on the legal fees.

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14 comments
Arturocarrasco75
Arturocarrasco75

mikael..keep your head up brother. Its a real shame your own blood did this to you.like i told you in your face...you have always been my idol, long before we met. and im proud of you and lucky to have shaken your hand that made you a true champion. arturo carrasco sr.

maria Sanchez
maria Sanchez

how much sympathy can anyone really have for Michael. He is not a victim in this case. Do you think Danny didn't get paid for training? Come on people, your not that dumb. Danny has to have his own money and so did Michael. this shows how blinded fans can get when someone they admire makes bad decisions. Michael tries to use the sympathy of his fans, which are limited now. If you look at Michael's history with police and his violent , loud behavior you will see that he is not the innocent man that never spend any money he claims to be. It's sad he is using his fans admiration to go against his brother. Those two were so close that I believe Michael knew where all of his money was going. You can't fool this ex-fan.

9st vp
9st vp

Hey Maria Sanchez you got a big mouth and if you knew the truth you wouldnt be commenting like that..... danny have you believing he is not guilty.... Michael is my uncle and i know the truth i see and witness so do your research before opening your FAT mouth.... you were never a fan because a true fan would stick by his side... i am telling you this so you're not having Michael as the "bad guy"..........

Diamondjohnson317
Diamondjohnson317

Hey DUMB IDIOT, you are as stupid as your uncle. I heard all about his faggot ass. He was picking up a hooker on Van Buren by your hood and found out it was a man. He liked the man but the pimp beat up your uncle cause he did'nt want to pay. Hell nah, that's low and I think Maris has a point and sounds a lot more smarter than you. You need to research about you uncle on Vanburen. Sounds like he is a bad guy...sorry.

Trickedoutscion06
Trickedoutscion06

hey 9st vp would u be able to email me if possiable trickedoutscion06@yahoo.com

Lori
Lori

Wow, what a sad sad story...too many times things like this happen in families and it just shows that blood is not thicker than water...to stab your own brother in the back...how does he look at himself everyday..very sad for Michael...I hope he find happiness, God Bless.

Ed
Ed

I've met Michael several times at Mecca Lounge (now razed). when he got drunk, he became abusive. i guess that was why he always had friends who drank with him(he bought). If you're stupid enough to be taken, then you get taken. Danny saw an easy score and took it. you can meet Danny now at that bar on 16th street drinking Michelobs with Mike's money.

Davey Altamirano Jr.
Davey Altamirano Jr.

Danny and Michael were the men who taught me how to really throw a punch. They trained me for some time in the jr. middleweight division at the 9th st. gym. It was the best experience of my life and im truly saddened by this whole incident cause i talked to them about fighting all the time cause i always looked up to them. I feel sorry for michael and what he is going through, i pray for him and the family. god bless, AKA Little Big Head.

Ralph R
Ralph R

Everyone in boxing is talking about this story. Please follow it up

Micho
Micho

I knew some of the Carbajal's and I remember when Angel would get of the Bus and walk down the street and he would buy Ice Cream for us. But to hear all of this is sad, especially for Michael and Mary. I looked at quit claim deed and Mary is spelled with two rr's and I think she would know how to spell her own name. The more stuff that comes out about Danny the more I suspect he is guilty of these heinous things. One thing though, Michael should have always kept his financial adviser, when it comes to money, it will tear even brothers with a strong bond apart. Michael should get on the wagon rebound and focus on training the next crop of Arizona champs.

Luis Lopez
Luis Lopez

Danny and his daughters ought to be ashamed of themselves. This boy needs to go away for a long, long time....Unbelivable

Roland Parks
Roland Parks

I was a big big fan of Michael's and remember all of your great stories on him and his family from way back when. I also read your story a few years ago about the murder and couldn't believe it. This is just so sad. I can see how Michael got taken for a ride because if you can't trust your brother, who can you trust? I hope he survives all this.

MaryK Croft
MaryK Croft

My family was there in the late '80's and our band, Side Effects, did some fund-raisers for Michael in 1987. We thought they were a class act, the whole Carbajal family. How sad this whole thing is! What I most hope for is that Sally gets vindicated. Michael will simply continue to live and may or may not get over it, but Sally, a domestic violence victim, doesn't even have that much.

David Lopez
David Lopez

This is a fucking amazing story. Wowwwwwwwwww....Son of a bitch

 
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